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Lives on a Canyon,

The single best way to reduce fire risk is to focus on communities and the homes within them. This means making sure homes are not located in hazardous positions and the structures themselves are fire-safe. Small, strategic fuel breaks via burning or some mechanical treatment directly around communities can be useful as well, but they are not the panacea many people claim them to be. I heard on KPBS this morning a fellow who lost his home in the 2007 fires. A horrible story, but the lessons learned are vital. He said he had used sheep to remove the vegetation and had trimmed up all the trees on his property over a large area around his home, yet it still burned.

Why? Part of the reason is that we have been beat over the head to “clear-the-brush, clear-the-brush, clear-the-brush,” but someone forgot about the mention the houses that are designed to burn. Regarding sheep: If the intention is to eliminate all semblance of nature, that’s the way to do it. Fuel reduction does not mean stripping everything down to the dirt. All that will eventually guarantee is the invasion of flammable weeds and erosion. We’ve learned that lesson in the Middle East over the last 10,000 years. Also, with the removal of ALL vegetation, nothing remains to serve as an ember catcher. Embers landing on the house mentioned above were the likely cause of its ignition. Everything was “cleared!” There was nothing to stop them.

If you have the time, please read the article I wrote, No one answer to fire risk reduction. It will provide you with some additional details.

— RICHARD HALSEY

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